Andrea Pirlo is no stranger to the Milan derby, having appeared on both sides of the divide during an illustrious playing career.
The 40-year-old officially retired from football in 2017, after a stint playing in MLS for New York City FC. Ahead of this weekend’s meeting between AC Milan and Inter he shared his thoughts with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
When analysing the strengths and weaknesses of both teams, Pirlo emphasised the unique qualities of Inter boss Antonio Conte, who he previously played under for Juventus and Italy.
Conte took charge of the Nerazzurri in May, almost a year after being sacked by Chelsea. His new club are currently second in the table, three points behind the leaders Juventus and 19 points clear of Milan, who are down in eighth.
With the help of substantial backing in the transfer market, Conte has been able to revive Inter’s fortunes after a difficult few years. They look primed for their first serious title challenge in almost a decade.
Pirlo isn’t surprised about the scale of their improvement, citing his own experience of playing under Conte, a notoriously demanding manager who he rates as the best he’s ever worked with. It’s quite an accolade considering his achievements under Carlo Ancelotti.
“Conte forces you to give your best at all times, more than you even thought you had. He is obsessed with victory, so when he loses, he becomes a demon. You daren’t speak to him,” said Pirlo.
“Conte is the best coach I ever worked with, every day he showed us 40-50 minute video sessions. It’s because of him that I started considering the idea of becoming a coach myself.
“It is above all Conte who has reduced the gap with Juve, but the club also spent money wisely to bring in players suited to his ideas. Inter will try to the end, but Juventus remain the favourites because they have quality in every individual.”
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